This One Goes to Eleven: Ron Reed

Meet Ron Reed, the Founding Artistic Director of Pacific Theatre, the resident theatre company of the intimate theatre space in the Chalmers Heritage Building at 12th and Hemlock. Ron founded PT in 1984, and the company has resided in its current digs since ’94. They have received an epic 75 Jessie nominations since then.

Ron is a prolific actor, playwright, director and blogger; helming Soul Food Vancouver (quite possibly Vancouver’s very first theatre blog) since 2006. He’s a Jessie nominee himself, and is Artist-in-Residence at Trinity Western University.

His most recent work, Refuge of Lies, is onstage at PT until May 1st.

1. In one word, describe your present condition.

Scrambling.

2. In as many words as you like, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

Lively, adventurous, supportive. It hasn’t always been like that: we have much to celebrate.

3. Please discuss the mandate and philosophy of PT.

To tell stories that explore spiritual experience. To treat each other well, even in the chaos of live theatre production. To do plays that interest us. To have fun. To offer the widest range of work possible within a given season that will serve our audience and our artists and our mandate: from the audacious Last Days Of Judas Iscariot straight to the family-friendly The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, then the aesthetically risky Passion Project and Refuge Of Lies into a musical theatre chestnut like Godspell – how’s that! Also, a huge commitment to providing an artistic home to artists who love what we’re about: nurturing emerging artists, providing opportunities for our artists to do work they care about, staying engaged with specific playwrights over years.

4. Where does Pacific Theatre fit into the theatre ecology of Vancouver?

The mandate is unique, providing huge artistic/stylistic range while keeping a clear focus that is recognizable, and which really matters a significant audience. Not that we’re the only game in town with this sort of material, any more: it’s no longer out of bounds to deal directly with spiritual, even religious, even Christian themes and characters. But it’s where we live, and people seem to value that.

5. How well are we as an industry responding to the current government’s treatment of us of late?

We’ve put up a good fight, and I’m proud of us. And grateful to those who’ve invested more time and energy in it than I. Thornton Wilder: “Every good and excellent thing stands moment by moment on the razor’s edge of danger, and must be fought for.” God bless the fighters.

*may not actually be Ron Reed, Theatreist...

6. How has your theatre blogging affected your work, and that of your company’s?

It gives me a lot of personal pleasure. Sort of like keeping a journal / scrapbook, but other people can enjoy it as well. Also, I’m a born enthusiast: I see something I like, I’m compelled to tell people about it. Somebody I know is doing something cool, I want everybody to know. For our company? Maybe it enhances ticket sales, but mostly it lets people be much more involved with what’s going on at the company. Community building: I like that.

7. What should we as an industry be doing better to extend ourselves further into the consciousness of the potential audience?

I don’t like those kinds of shoulds. We don’t have the money to be significantly present in broadcast media, so we won’t be a pervasive presence in the public mind, that’s all there is to it. Still… Do your best work, keep having fun, and build community around you by engaging your audience in any aspect of the process and the work that you possibly can.

8. Who are your great theatrical influences?

Libby Appel and Robert Benedetti, my acting teacher and mentor (respectively) at CalArts. Morris Ertman, who’s directed me in a billion plays, and from our earliest days has shaped the way I think about everything theatrical. And so many of my fellow artists: when they are bold and inspire me to keep trying stuff, when they delight me with their creation and keep my courage and motivation and spirits up. Steven Soderbergh: “I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don’t care if it’s a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music. Anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. I think the world would be unlivable without art.”

9. What would you like to see more of on Vancouver stages?

Story.

10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?

Writing In Restaurants, David Mamet (but not his others!)

Eric Bentley’s essays and criticism from the fifties

Story, Robert McKee

But mostly it’s art that inspires me, not books about the art. Theatre, film, photography, poetry, dance, all of it. “Go thou and do otherwise.”

11. What’s next?

I’m acting in Godspell, which will be a blast. The past several seasons I’ve directed PT’s Emerging Artist showcase at the end of the season: this time it seemed like it would be more fun to act in it instead. (And I didn’t want the headache of directing the damn thing! Leave that to Sarah Rodgers…) Godspell had a huge impact on me in my early years, and I’m hungry to be in the middle of it. And scared (which is good) – I’m no song and dance man! Bring it on.

The Arts Club’s New Revue Stage re-opens tonight

Congratulations to Bill Millard, Howard Jang and company on the grand re-opening of the Revue Stage on Granville Island. It looks like the latent potential of this space is set to be realized, and kudos to the AC’s directive to dedicate it to ‘new and innovative theatre’ and emerging artists. The makeover looks mighty sexy, sleek and simple. Check out their blog for an introduction by Bill himself.

The space launches tonight with Anosh Irani’s My Granny the Goldfish. Break many legs in there, gang.

Photo by David Cooper

Has this internet social marketing business got you all befuddled? We can help

Did you somehow end up at the administration end of the Arts Industry? Been beating your fists against a wall of decimated funding and shrinking attendance? Struggling to make sense of all this chatter about the ‘new marketing’? You are so not alone.

At this point in the constant evolution of business, “Social Media” – or whatever you want to call it – is not going anywhere anytime soon. We know this because everybody keeps saying that your company has to get on board with it, that you have to dedicate staff hours to it or risk extinction, that it’s the future, man.

Well, we have no idea if it’s the future. No one does, that’s why it’s called the future. But what we know right now is that social networks can provide a unique and potent set of tools for building interest in your business. The trick is to not go crazy trying.

Rebecca Coleman and I – after some years of wading through the jungle of these varied networks – have been offering workshops through the Alliance for Arts and Culture to help Arts organizations and their administrators get a handle on the cacophony of information that assaults you every time you get close to the computer. We have a new session coming up on Tuesday, April 27 if you and your company feel that you need a guide (or two) through the noise.

We’ll talk about how social networks work of course, but more importantly we’ll talk about why you should use them. The most important thing I’ve learned from working with arts organizations on marketing is that if we don’t have a clear and simple picture of what we’re working towards with these tools, we’ll burn out mighty fast. There has to be a better reason to learn new skills than ‘it’s what everyone is doing’.

We’ll give you the why’s. We’ll debunk this ridiculous notion of ‘social-media gurus’.  It’s not a new language. It’s a way to get at people that speak the same language. The point of social networks is that they put us all on a level playing field. How far you go on that field is entirely up to you.

Here’s the pitch:

The Workshop

Rebecca Coleman and Simon Ogden are pleased to present their immensely popular workshop: Demystifying Social Media.

Marketing our work has changed. We can no longer rely upon purchasing advertising or looking for editorial coverage in traditional forms of media like newspapers, radio, or TV. Using social media to reach our audiences is becoming more and more important. But when it comes to reaching your audience through social media, you can’t use traditional methods of marketing. The game has entirely changed.

This workshop will cover the basics of social media marketing, how it differs from traditional forms of marketing, how to join a social media network, and the etiquette of the community.

Note: An advanced workshop (Demystifying Social Media II) will follow in the afternoon. Separate registration required.

Facilitators: Simon Ogden is a produced playwright and the managing director of Lyric Stage Project (LSP), an outgrowth of Lyric School of Acting. He is also the marketer and publicist for LSP, and promotes the theatre industry through his online theatre magazine The Next Stage.

Rebecca Coleman has been a freelance theatre publicist since 2001. An actor, writer and producer, she has become increasingly interested in using social media to market the arts, and writes about the subject frequently on her blog, The Art of the Business. Rebecca is the author of The Guide to Getting Started With Social Media for Artists and Arts Organizations, which will be available for purchase for $19.95 at the workshop.

From past clients:

“I enjoyed the little tips and insider secrets they provided”

“Both presenters were very knowledgeable, relaxed, respectful and focused.

Demystifying Social Media: Session 1 (Introductory – morning)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Alliance for Arts and Culture 100- 938 Howe Street

Cost: $50 (+GST) for Alliance members, $75 (+GST) for non-members

Registration: Advance registration and pre-payment are required for all Alliance workshops. We accept cash, VISA, MC, or cheque. Call our office at 604.681.3535 with a credit card number or drop by our office to register and make payment in person.

Cancellation: We reserve the right to cancel workshops if registration is too low.

*Note: we split the full workshop into two parts to accommodate people who may already have a basic knowledge of social networks. You can choose to attend both sessions or take them individually.

Demystifying Social Media: Session 2 (Advanced – afternoon)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Alliance for Arts and Culture 100- 938 Howe Street

Cost: $50 (+GST) for Alliance members, $75 (+GST) for non-members

Registration: Advance registration and pre-payment are required for all Alliance workshops. We accept cash, VISA, MC, or cheque. Call our office at 604.681.3535 with a credit card number or drop by our office to register and make payment in person.

Cancellation: We reserve the right to cancel workshops if registration is too low.

Click here for the official Alliance site

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Atomic Vaudeville in Vancouver for this weekend only!

For the uninitiated, Atomic Vaudeville is a Victoria institution, putting on monthly plays consisting of “short-form mélange of theatre, music, song, dance, puppetry and sketch”. Co-creators Britt Small (read her Next Stage interview here) and Jacob Richmond have carved out a rabidly popular entertainment alternative in their home town, and this weekend they’re bringing it to the Anza Club on Friday and Saturday night. Should be a riot.

Tickets are $15 for students and $18 regular available at the door or reserve through email:

Click here to reserve tickets

This One Goes to Eleven: Carole Higgins

Carole is the Artistic and Managing Director for one of the city’s most vital companies: Carousel Theatre for Young People, which has been turning kids onto the magic of performing arts for 35 seasons. She started her career with a BFA in acting from SFU, and performed across British Columbia before taking the Carousel reins.

Carole took the time away from getting A Year With Frog and Toad ready for opening this week to answer 11 Questions for us…

1. In one word, describe your present condition.

Exhausted and exhilarated. I am rehearsing two shows- one during the day and the other at night. I come in to the office at 8:00 am every morning to do admin before heading into the rehearsal hall…. AHHHH!!!!!

2. In as many words as you like, please describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

Exciting, challenging and invigorating. Exciting in that there is so much interesting work being done here in Vancouver, and so much variety for audiences and theatre lovers. I love the concept of Hive, and all the site-specific work being done… the new emerging theatre companies that are forming and I love that the Arts Club is staging August: Osage County (an absolutely brilliant script) next season. At the same time, it’s very challenging given the cuts to the Arts here in BC.

3. What’s your favourite thing an audience member has ever said to you about one of your shows?

Hmmmm….tough to choose just one. I think it would be an email we had from a grandparent thanking us for the tender way that we staged the story Love You Forever. For me, staging that moment was a tribute to my dear mom, who left us twelve years ago after a long battle with cancer. My mom loved that story so much.

4. What part do you see Carousel playing in the theatre ecology of Vancouver?

We are Vancouver’s mainstage theatre for young audiences company. I love that so many young people experience theatre for the first time through Carousel Theatre, and hopefully we are encouraging our young patrons to be live-long theatre goers.

5. Jessie talked about the recent government funding setbacks. How are they affecting you as Artistic Director?

It’s scary. We have so many dreams, and now more than ever we are being forced to rely on earned revenue. We have put our touring program on hiatus, but we are going ahead with all other programming.

6. What would be your ultimate dream for Carousel if we could remove all obstacles?

To stage a year-round season of Mainstage theatre for young people, and to have our own theatre venue where we could stage not only our own productions, but bring in outstanding theatre for young audiences productions from across Canada, and around the world.

7. How does a piece get chosen for inclusion in one of your seasons?

I do a lot of research on what other TYA companies in Canada and the US are staging, and I think about different stories I loved as a child, and stories that children today are reading. I also consider suggestions from educators and subscribers. I visit bookstores, especially Kidsbooks. I look for stories that young people can enjoy with their families.

8. What’s your ‘how I fell in love with theatre’ story?

At age three I saw a family friend play a fairy princess in a Christmas pantomime. I was hooked for life.

9. What is your proudest theatrical moment to date?

Our production of Seussical the Musical.

10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?

I wish I had more time to read! All the classics.

11. What’s next?

Frog and Toad opens April 17th! Then it’s on to our fundraiser the Lawyer Show and then on to our Teen Shakespeare Program this summer.

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The Cultch announces new youth performing arts intensive

I finally got to check out the sexy new Cultch when Jack and I took in Elephant Wake the other week (a sterling example of how great acting can elevate a good theatre experience to a magnificent one, btw.), and the new facility is everything I hoped it would be. Absolutely worth the wait. Super comfy with great sound, while retaining the elegance of the old space. The Culture Lab promises big things. And they’ve got a lovely little wine bar in the building now as well, and have just announced that Sebastien Le Goff – he of Uva and Cibo – will be in charge of the wine program. Should be enough to get us out of the house and to the theatre a little earlier, anyway. My thanks to  Head FoH Manager (and sickly talented playwright) Dave Deveau for the grande tour.

And they’re taking their role as an industry leader seriously. Just announced is a new summer youth initiative geared towards training the next generation of theatremakers. From the press release:

This unprecedented opportunity recreates first-hand what a professional performing arts company has to tackle to bring a new work to the stage, all condensed into two weeks! The camp culminates with the students premiering the work they have created with their mentors in the Cultch’s Historic Theatre.

It’s going to have to be pretty intensive to get all that into two weeks. But the 40 lucky high school artists from the lower mainland are certainly in good hands, the mentors are all gigantically talented ADs from some of our top indie companies: Kendra Fanconi of The Only Animal, Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg of Tara Cheyenne Performance, James Long of Theatre Replacement and Marcus Youssef from Neworld Theatre.

The Cultch is in a unique position to offer youth programming because we work so closely with Vancouver’s premiere independent performing arts producers. We are able to connect young people to artists in the city who are out there doing what they want to be doing in the future. It is all about learning first hand what it takes to succeed.

Corbin Murdoch, Cultch Youth Program Manager

Click here for mentor bios and registration info

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